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Q: I am a reservist and was recently activated for service in Stuttgart. I love Germany, but also have a great job back home. I am afraid that I might lose it, due to being sent here. Additionally, after I arrived here, I learned that I’ve been sued back in the U.S. What are my rights?
A: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act provides employment protections to reservists and National Guardsmen who are activated for federal service.
A person who is employed when called to active duty, and who has already notified his employer of his service, may return to that job after deployment, so long as he was not away from it for more than five years, was released under honorable conditions, and reports back to his employer within a timely manner. USERRA applies to virtually all employers in the U.S., including government and American companies, along with foreign companies located within the U.S.
USERRA provides that an employer or prospective employer cannot deny a person employment, reemployment, promotion, or any benefit of employment simply because the prospective employee is a member of, applying to be a member of, or has been a member of the military.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service with the Department of Labor will assist persons claiming rights under USERRA. If you request assistance, VETS will contact your employer to explain the law and conduct an investigation.
Regarding the lawsuit filed against you, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act provides service members with a variety of protections. One protection is that service members who are unable to appear in a court due to their military duties may postpone the proceeding for at least 90 days.
To exercise these rights, you must make a written request to the court, explain why your current military duty affects your ability to appear, and provide a date when you will be able to appear. You must also include a letter from your commander stating that your duties preclude you from appearing in court and that you are not authorized leave for the hearing.
If you learn that a default judgment has been entered against you during your active duty service, or within 60 days thereafter, the SCRA gives you the ability to have the judgment set aside. To do so, you will need to show that you were prejudiced by not being able to appear in person, and that you have meritorious defenses to the claims against you.
This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.